Microfinance institutions (MFIs) play a pivotal role in extending financial services to underserved populations, empowering individuals like Shardha, Pooja, Anuradha, and Mamta (assumed names) with access to credit and banking facilities. However, as with any financial ecosystem, vulnerabilities exist, and unscrupulous actors sometimes exploit them.
In this compilation of caselets, we delve into the unsettling instances where clients of MFIs fell prey to fraudulent activities. These stories underscore the challenges and risks faced by both clients and MFIs in maintaining the integrity of their financial transactions. From misdirected loan disbursements to biometric identity theft, ATM card exchanges, and deceptive UPI payments, these narratives shed light on the need for constant vigilance and enhanced security measures within the microfinance sector.
As we explore each caselet, we invite you to examine the dynamics of these fraudulent incidents and consider the lessons they impart on safeguarding the trust and financial well-being of microfinance clients in an increasingly interconnected and digital world.
Caselet 1: Misdirected Loan Disbursement
Shardha, a loyal microfinance client from Karnataka, had been borrowing from the MFI for over four years. In her most recent loan transaction, the loan amount was mistakenly disbursed to an incorrect bank account number. The MFI staff, seemingly unaware of the mistake, instructed Shardha to follow up with her bank to resolve the issue and insisted that she should continue repaying her instalments on the due date.
Out of fear that her credit bureau records might be negatively impacted, Shardha dutifully continued to repay the instalments for loans she never received. She faithfully paid six instalments before realizing that the loan had never been credited to her account. Only then did she stop making further payments, but by that time, her loan was already shown as overdue.
Caselet 2: Biometric Identity Theft
Pooja, a client of one of the MFIs, had Rs 40,000 disbursed to her bank account. Eager to withdraw the money, she visited a BC agent for assistance. The agent, using biometric authentication (fingerprint), informed Pooja that the funds had not yet arrived in her bank account. However, once Pooja left the agent's location, he misused her biometric data to initiate a withdrawal transaction without her knowledge.
Pooja only discovered this fraudulent activity after persistent follow-ups with the MFI, revealing that the agent had executed an unauthorized withdrawal using her biometric data.
Caselet 3: ATM Card Exchange Scam
Anuradha, a long-time client of an MFI, approached the branch staff for assistance in withdrawing money from her ATM. The staff member withdrew Rs 10,000 for Anuradha but surreptitiously swapped her ATM card with another. Unbeknownst to Anuradha, the perpetrator of this fraud used her ATM card to conduct multiple unauthorized withdrawals over the next week.
Anuradha only realized what had happened when she received her bank statement showing multiple withdrawals she hadn't authorized.
Caselet 4: UPI Payment Deception
Mamta, a client of a different MFI, expressed her desire to repay her loan using UPI instead of cash. The MFI staff provided her with a QR code and instructed her to make the repayment by scanning it. Trusting the staff, Mamta initiated the UPI payment as instructed, believing that her repayment was being processed correctly.
Unfortunately, the amount never found its way into the borrower's account. Mamta later discovered that she had fallen victim to a fraudulent QR code, and the money she thought she had repaid was nowhere to be found in the MFI's records.